Brad Smith is the Director Of Photography at Sports Illustrated. Now, I’m not sure if that authority extends at all to the Swimsuit Issue, though that would be a perk I would demand in lieu of medical benefits, but overall, Smith is the visual director of one of the most historic and visual publications of all time. Prior to the SI, he was the Senior Sports Photography Editor at The New York Times, and as you might expect, between the two, Brad has been approached by photographers to and extent to which most people couldn’t fathom. What that means is Brad has an understanding of photographers, and the people who hire them, and has a treasure chest of information on what it really takes to get hired.
Hint: It takes a lot more than just good photos
In the video below, Brad touches on everything from how to make sure your work is seen, what it takes to catch their attention, and probably most importantly, what they are looking for in regards to the person who is submitting work, and how to conduct yourself with and in front of the people who may be hiring you. This is gold.
[REWIND: A Master Class In Getting Brilliant Images Anywhere In Any Light, In Camera | Jerry Ghionis]
He begins by speaking about the importance of making the right first step, which is getting the work seen, and how to do this. That is a crucial step, and then goes on to speak of what forms of media to present on, the problems with using email and websites as a primary showcase, and why some physical product is best. Some of you may cough at this, but what you’re getting is insight into what those hiring you require, and what’s going through their heads – what their needs are, and what they don’t want to deal with.
An example of what they don’t want to deal with is recurring phone calls and voicemails. I know too many people who’ve watched Wall Street, see the part where Bud Fox finally gets a meeting with Gordon Gekko because as Gekko says, ‘This is the kid. Calls me 59 days in a row, wants to be a player,” and grants him that meeting. This may work sometimes, but you’re likely to annoy a lot of people, and you don’t want to annoy the right people.
Smith then spends a good amount of time discussing and stressing the importance of the character of the photographer. How you present yourself has to be right, and it has to be serious and not as casual as on game day. He speaks about punctuality, and not overstaying your welcome, and to understand the value of the time you’re being given. Interestingly, he says that when presenting the actual work in person, a subject he has much to say on, that you shouldn’t be narrating each image and should let the work do most of the, well, work.
There’s a whole lot more where that comes from, and I highly recommend this clip. Actually, #BehindtheGlass by a.a. Productions has compiled such a brilliant set of useful videos that are worth checking out, but I would venture to say that if you’re a professional and watch one video this week, make it this one.
This is a subject I actually know a little something about. Perhaps because I can string sentences together in a semi-appealing way, my friends all come to me to re-word and re-vamp their resumes and cover letters, and when I do, they tend to have some notable success. I firmly believe that this is because I make it a point to have an understanding of the needs of those doing the hiring, what they don’t want to see, and really understand that making their life easier is a major focus. A lot of applicants miss this, and I’ve noticed in photography it’s much the same.
As a publication, SLR Lounge gets a horde of ‘applications’ for jobs and to have work showcased. Now, we’re not quite Sports Illustrated, but a lot of the same points Brad touches on apply. If your email is too sloppily written, if it’s too long and full of fluff that doesn’t read well, I’m not going to go much further. If I have to search through your website to find contact information I probably won’t do it unless your work is that compelling. Furthermore, if you show you’ve blasted this email out to many, and show no particular understanding about my needs and my time, I likely won’t give you the time of day.
A lot of artist types, from my experience, bring with them a belief that they are really special, and that we the hiring team, will spend the time it may take to notice that. Really, it doesn’t work this way. The onus is on the applicant to bring this across in a concise and professional way. If not, it has to be really novel and or interesting. At the end of the day, getting photo work is like getting any other work. There must be understanding on the part of the applicant of the needs of those hiring, and show professionalism in displaying that. After all, if you get the job, you’ll be a representation of the company and those hiring you – and that reflection should be pretty.